New Study Finds UV Nail Polish Dryers Can Lead to Cancer-Causing Cell Mutations

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If you get regular gel manicures, you may be putting yourself at risk of getting skin cancer. A new study in Nature Communications found that exposure to UV nail polish dryers is dangerous. Exposure can cause cancerous cell mutations, much like a tanning bed. People who put their skin under the UV light on a more frequent basis are at higher risk of getting skin cancer.

UV Nail Dryers in Salons Are Similar to Tanning Beds

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of California San Diego. They noted that previous studies had linked UV light from tanning beds to skin cancer. However, they were curious about UV nail drying devices. According to, salon nail dryers typically use UV light in the 340 – 395nm spectrum. Meanwhile, tanning beds are usually set between 280 and 400 nm.

Studies have shown that tanning bed UV light exposure is carcinogenic. It raises the risk of developing malignant melanomas and squamous cell carcinomas. The FDA also warns that tanning beds can cause early aging, eye damage, immune suppression, and allergic reactions.

Noting how dangerous tanning beds can be, UCSD researchers wanted to explore what happens when a person puts their hands under a nail salon UV light on a regular basis. They found that one 20-minute exposure to a UV nail dryer causes 20 to 30% cell death. Three consecutive days of 20-minute exposure resulted in 65 to 70% cell death. They also found that cell DNA was damaged. Thus, people who get regular gel treatments that use UV nail dryers may be at greater risk of getting skin cancer.

More Research Is Necessary to Fully Understand Link Between the Salon Devices and Cancer

Ludmil Alexandrov is one of the study’s co-authors. He is a professor of bioengineering and cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego.

β€œWe saw multiple things: first, we saw that DNA gets damaged,” said Alexandrov. “We also saw that some of the DNA damage does not get repaired over time, and it does lead to mutations after every exposure with a UV-nail polish dryer. Lastly, we saw that exposure may cause mitochondrial dysfunction, which may also result in additional mutations. We looked at patients with skin cancers, and we see the exact same patterns of mutations in these patients that were seen in the irradiated cells.”

β€œIf you look at the way these devices are presented, they are marketed as safe, with nothing to be concerned about,” he continued. “But to the best of our knowledge, no one has actually studied these devices and how they affect human cells at the molecular and cellular levels until now.”

The report states that further research on a larger scale is needed. Specifically, scientists should continue trying to evaluate the connection between UV nail dryers and cancer. They estimate that such studies may take an entire decade to complete.

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